The Community College has come along way in the past decade. Students are seeing the benefits of taking their preliminary courses and prerequisites at Community Colleges as opposed to a four year institution. Community Colleges cost quite a bit less, and they tend to have some perks larger schools just do not have.
Community Colleges offer more extensive remediation classes. They have smaller classrooms. Plus their student service departments tend to be more accommodating. All if these things can be very attractive to traditional and non-traditional students. It saves them money, and it also gives a more user friendly college experience. While this is a great idea, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
If you are thinking about going this route, what is the accreditation of the Community College you want to attend? Does the four year institution you want to attend have that same accreditation? If does not, the four year institution accept the Community College’s accreditation? If the schools do not have the same accreditation, or if the four year school does not accept the Community College’s accreditation, they will not accept your transfer credit. That will be a waste of your money and time. Sure, you can try to test out via CLEP, but those will cost you more money too.
Once you have determined that the two schools are compatible, you can determine if the schools have a transfer agreement. Just because the school takes your credits, does not guarantee that their classes and the Community College classes will match up. Some four year institutions have standing agreements with certain Community colleges. They have agreements that state exactly which of the Community College classes will transfer over to their system. These agreements ensure that as long as you meet the transfer requirements (usually a C or higher) those classes will count as their counterpart at the other school.
Some colleges go a step further. In these instances whole Associates Degree programs will transfer over to the four year institution. It is a good idea to find out if your Community College has the agreements with any other colleges. Also be sure to determine exactly which degree, program and specialty is included in the agreement. Sometimes the Associate of Applied Science Degree will not be covered by the agreement, but the Associates Degree will be. The classes you take under the AAS degree will still qualify to transfer. You are just not guaranteed that the whole degree program will be accepted. Find out if there are any agreements in place, and make sure you are aware of the fine print. Check with the transfer center at the Community College for more details.
Aside from all the transfer credit issues, another problem plagues transfer students from Community Colleges. They are so spoiled by the Community College way of life, they are not prepared for their four year institutions. They classes are bigger. They are no longer known by each instructor by name. It can be quite a shock.
The bigger problem lies in that Community Colleges do not always prepare their students for less person attention. There is a great deal of hand holding at the Community College level. Students do not learn to be self sufficient. Online registration systems are in place, but they are not the only way to register. Students are allowed to hand in only partially completed paperwork, and the staff is expected to help them complete it. Student responsibility is often not stressed. Students become dependent on the personal attention.
At most four year institutions, this is not the case. Student do most of the registration and other business via the internet. Going to the Registrar’s Office is a rarity. Even then, if you took a half filled out forms to one of their employees, they would probably tell you to go away. Students are expected to be able to take care of their own business. Start taking steps to being self sufficient early on. It isn’t a bad thing to take help in the early stages. After you start to get the hang of things, then start being more independent. Start registering by the online systems. If you have to do paperwork, make sure you know how to complete it correctly. If you do not, you need to meet with your advisor and learn how.
Actually read your student handbook. The school does just print that up for the heck of it. That little book is filled with tons of info that you really should be aware of. Know the college’s policies. The hand book covers academic probation, refund policies, FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. ) and many other rules and policies you need to be familiar with. If you know the rules, it will be much easier to follow them.
Spending your first few years of college at a Community College can be a great idea, but be sure to do your homework! If you just jump in unprepared, it can be a very frustrating experience. Give yourself a fighting chance!